The new setting book for the Cypher System, Gods of the Fall, comes out this week; as a Kickstarter backer, the Octopus already has xer copy of the PDF. Today will be a glance through it to see how it roughly measures up against what was hoped for when it was initially announced.
As a setting, it’s definitely a high-fantasy world in terms of power. The PCs are inheritors of divine power for whatever reason, and the world itself is saturated with fragments from the fall of the divine realm. The current rulers of the world, such as it is, are the sorcerers known as Dragons, once kept to the fringes of the world by the gods. The gods died a mere 42 years ago, and as such there are those alive who remember the world as it was, and the stark contrast it had to the world today. Most of civilization dwells in the Nightland, a place perpetually under the shadow of a moon that appeared during the Fall that tracks the sun across the sky each day; talk of the old gods and the rise of new ones is forbidden, and likely to result in violence by those who feel betrayed by the old gods even if the goons of the Empress don’t get involved.
Slavery is commonplace, although before the Fall it was apparently unknown, and in some places you can apparently get away with paying a fee to legally murder your neighbor. Thus while the power level is certainly high fantasy, the tone so far is much closer to low fantasy. Even the afterlife, a place called Soulrest, isn’t as it was before the Fall, with the former guardian of the place now turned into a ravenous devourer of souls. As such, the former elaborate practices of funerals have given way to hurrying to dispose of the remains in a crypt or cemetary with as little fuss as possible. All in all, the author paints a picture of a land that went from a shining place to one full of mud, blood, and despair.
Religion is officially stamped out, with a kind of atheism that recognizes that the gods once existed, but that they’re dead now and one might as well get on with life. Adherents remain, although most practice in secret; the Dragons that rule over areas tend to not take kindly to open worship of the beings that once banished them to the edges of the world. The closest open thing there is are the chapterhouses, which teach philosophy, meditation, and the occasional martial art; which is the second clue to me that there’s meant to be some Eastern leanings in the design of this setting.
We’re also told that the average citizen of the Afterworld (so called because it’s the world After the Fall, which is also how the calendar works; the current year is 42 AF) doesn’t much encounter the more esoteric creatures of the world, and even the ‘common’ mythical beings like trolls and griffons might be considered fables, at least in those lands considered civilized. We also get a bit on the weather and climate, with the mention of a malign supernatural storm that tears at the sanity of those caught in it.
This is all covered in the first part; then we get a bit of fiction that sets up how a PC might come into their power, and then we’re off into the next part – the setting proper, broken up into several chapters. The first five chapters each cover a particular region of the Afterworld, while the sixth covers organizations.
The Nightland, the ‘civilized’ area of beneath the perpetual shadow of the moon of Nod takes the first chapter; the second is the Ruinscape, where the center of civilization used to be and now only ruins and the churning storm that marks where the heavens fell to the world remain; the Verge, a borderlands that hasn’t known civilization in ages, home to the nefar – creatures like goblins and trolls; the moon of Nod itself, a place that is a literal and physical realm of dreams that can be visited both physically and psychically; and Soulrest, the afterlife, now just as twisted and broken as the living world.
The last Setting chapter covers organizations in the setting; this includes a description of the group and the benefits for being a part of them. Example include the Reconciliators, the combination police force, guards against mystic evil, and enforcers of the Empress and the Adherence, a group that cleaves to the old gods and their worship.
The next segment is all about the characters; it begins with a chapter on GMing divine characters, then moves on to the new Types for this setting; much as The Strange had different Types from Numenera, Gods of the Fall differs from the Cypher System core book, offering to let players be Champions, Shapers, Destroyers, or Saviors.
The segment after this offers information on Descriptors and Foci, including new descriptors to cover the non-human races of the setting and a couple of divine Foci. Despite this, it doesn’t cover the material from the Core Book that it lists; the fact that this is a setting book is abundantly clear in this section.
Next up comes a segment on Dominions – a way of gaining truly divine powers as an option instead of the more regular character advancement. With segments like Labors, Symbols, and Dogma, as well as a segment on forming a pantheon, this is where the premise of the game will either really live up to the pitch or fall flat; I look forward to examining it in more detail.
Last is the usual section on Equipment; while it undoubtedly handles the standard run of things you might want as an adventuring nascent deity, it also covers some of the more exotic materials in the world. With names like Aetherstone, Soul Glass, and Seraphic Iron, it promises some exotic options for creating things.
Last up is the GM’s Toolbox, beginning with the bestiary of creatures and NPCs, including listings in both alphabetical order and arranged by level. The next segment covers new cyphers and new artifacts for the setting; of the latter a GM and the PCs can certainly find inspiration for characters. Last, there’s a complete adventure ready to go, involving the fulfilling of a Salvation prophecy in the heart of the Nightland itself. Certainly a fitting task for gods-to-be, right?
All in all, while it misses a few beats on what I was expecting, it looks like an interesting and well-detailed setting that I’m going to enjoy digging deeper into. Stay tuned for more in-depth reports as I do so.